Melody Belle to be inducted to Racing Hall of Fame

Record-breaking racemare Melody Belle will be inducted to the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame in May.

On the eve of the sale she was sourced from seven years ago, it has been announced that outstanding racemare Melody Belle will be inducted to the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame.

Melody Belle was sold for $57,500 at the 2016 NZB National Yearling Sale to the bid of Te Akau principal David Ellis, going on to race in the colours of the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate under the training of Jamie Richards and Stephen Autridge for her first two seasons and then solely by Richards.

She was a major winner every season from two to six years, voted New Zealand Champion 2YO in 2016-17, Champion Sprinter-Miler in 2018-19 and 2019-20, Champion Middle Distance Horse in 2019-20 and 2020-21 and New Zealand Horse of the Year in 2018-19 and 2019-20. In 41 starts from two to six years, she won 19 races and stakes of $4,265,000.

Melody Belle’s crowning glory was her March 2021 victory in the Gr. 1 ARC New Zealand Stakes (2000m), when she broke Sunline’s record of 13 Group One wins. Her tally of 14 Group One wins came at two, four, five and six years, ranging in distance from 1400m to 2040m. She also made history in 2019 as the first horse to complete the Hawke’s Bay Triple Crown, and a month after completing that hat-trick in the Livamol Classic (2040m), she added the Gr. 1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.

“Her win on the VRC Derby card is the one that stands out in so many memories of her fantastic career,” said Fortuna Syndications principal John Galvin. “That relentless run from the back all the way up the Flemington straight, it was typical of her style.

“But there were so many memorable moments with this horse of a lifetime – the BCD Sprint at Te Rapa when she was dead and buried, another time when she was last into the straight in the Tarzino Trophy at Hastings. And even in defeat she gave us all so many thrills – backing up from the Empire Rose to run an unlucky second in the Mckinnon Stakes, carrying topweight from a wide draw in the Doncaster, hitting the front and getting run down by much lighter weighted horses.”

Melody Belle, one of countless high-profile members of a line established in the 1940s by James and Annie Sarten, was raced by a 34-member syndicate, many of them first-time owners.

“She generated so many wonderful little stories up and down the country from Whangarei in the north to Cromwell in the south,” Galvin added.

“The great thing about this great mare is that she raced in the very best races from two to six years, yet through that whole time she never had any soundness issues, and when it came time for her retirement, she did so on her terms.”

  Jamie Richards has similar fond memories of Melody Belle, whose race record was a massive contributor to his stellar training career at the helm of Te Akau Racing before being granted a licence to train in Hong Kong.

“She was a wonderful mare, she won a Karaka Million for me and Steve and it just went from there,” Richards said. “Her toughness and soundness which allowed her to race incredibly well throughout her career was quite remarkable.

“It didn’t seem to matter what distance, whether it was 1200 metres as a two-year-old or 2000 metres as an older horse, she was a fantastic mare to be associated with. For a young trainer coming through, that was immensely important and she will always hold a special place in my career.

“It was a combined effort between David (Ellis), John (Galvin), myself and the rest of the team to secure her. We really liked her and she turned out to be great buying.”

Melody Belle’s breeder Marie Leicester, who offered the daughter of Commands and the Iffraaj mare Meleka Belle through the Haunui Farm draft, has clear memories of that Karaka sale, having placed a reserve of $60,000 on her but conceding to the final bid of $57,500 from Ellis.

“I always like to see horses I breed go to the right home and knowing David had the last bid I realised she would get every chance as a racehorse with Te Akau,” Leicester said. “What followed was simply amazing.

“I wasn’t too happy when she was named Melody Belle, because that was the name of a very good mare from the Belle family that my mother raced in the 1970s. I started to change my mind when Melody Belle 2 started winning races, and the memories she has brought back of all those horses my parents bred and raced have been something to cherish.

“Trying to choose between all those wins which one was the best, but I’d have to say becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown at Hastings was special. That’s partly because my father’s champion filly Star Belle was the first to win the three-year-old Triple Crown of the Great Northern Guineas, Derby and St Leger at Ellerslie back in the ’60s.

“They’re both champions from a fantastic line that I’m still breeding from and it means so much to me to now see Melody Belle inducted to the Hall of Fame.”

*The 2023 NZ Racing Hall of Fame Inductee dinner is scheduled for Sunday May 7 in Hamilton. Visit www.racinghalloffame.co.nz